Olive Oil vs. Coconut Oil


oilOlive Oil vs. Coconut Oil.

Okay, this is a fun one…

As part of The Kitchen Skinny family, you’ve heard us share the benefits of cooking with coconut oil versus olive oil. It’s one of the first switches we make with our clients as they prepare more meals at home.

Why?

The primary reason is that olive oil, due to its chemical structure, is susceptible to oxidative damage when heated. Whereas coconut oil more stable. (Note coconut oil is solid like butter until heated).

Our general rule of thumb is:

  • cook with coconut oil
  • use olive oil at room temp (think…dressings, hummus, etc.)

In the average person’s kitchen, coconut oil and olive oil are the only two oils you really ‘need’.

But, here’s where it gets a little tricky.

Note that I said ‘general rule of thumb’.  That means that not every rule applies to every body.

That’s the tricky thing when it comes to nutrition. We have a tendency to read something and add it to our lives without really understanding the reason behind it or looking at how it impacts our personal health goals.

For example:

I don’t know about you, but at our house, we used to use a lot of olive oil. We grew up when the Mediterranean Diet was getting a lot of attention. And, somewhere in that era we got the message that olive oil was ‘heart-healthy’. To us, that meant if you want a healthy heart, you should use olive oil. So we poured it on our salad, our stir frys, our bread. We used it for everything and honestly thought we were doing our hearts a favor by adding this important ingredient to our routine.

Today we know better.

Oils are tricky business.

(Actually, they literally are tricky business. If you want to go crazy, you can Google around for the whole scandal around fake olive oils…or read the book on it…that’s a lot of fun. And, now with all of the attention that coconut oil is getting, I’m sure we’ll see a fair amount of scandal there as well.)

But, unless you have a lot of time on your hands, it’s not going to help you get dinner on the table.

So, here’s what you need to know about oils.

Simply put…Oils are fat. They are calorically dense. And, they are a processed food. (And, if you’re like most of us, I’m guessing these are all things you’re trying to avoid).

When we hear claims that olive or coconut oils are heart-healthy, it’s easy to misinterpret. We translate that into thinking – the more the better.

But, oils should always be used in moderation.

Especially for us here in the U.S. who grew up on the Standard American Diet.

When you live in a world where heart disease is the number one killer, you have every reason to consider minimizing (if not avoiding) oils all together.

Go to your cupboard today and take a look at your crackers, breads, chips. What do you see on the ingredient list?  Oils. The fact is we’re getting them everywhere. It sneaks up on you. So, if you’re serious about preventing heart disease or you’re concerned that heart disease runs in your family, oils (of any kind) should definitely be on your watch list.

Some general guidelines:

  • Remember that olive oil and coconut oil are highly processed foods. (And, like many of our recommendations, you want to avoid the concentrated, processed stuff as much as possible because of the lack of fiber, minerals, etc.) Instead, get your healthy fats from whole foods – i.e. avocados, nuts, seeds (unless you have established heart disease in which case you may wish to pursue a more aggressive approach)
  • Dietary fat of all kinds contains more calories than other nutrients. (9 calories per 1 g) MayoClinic.com recommends getting no more than 20 to 35 percent of your total calories from dietary fat. Get no more than 10 percent of your daily calories from saturated fat — or 7 percent or less, if you’re concerned about heart disease.
  • Use your oils sparingly. When you need an oil for cooking, use a little coconut oil. When you need an oil for dressing, use a little olive oil.

Bottomline

When you hear someone recommend an oil as ‘heart healthy’ just know that doesn’t mean it’s a cure for heart disease. It simply means it is less harmful than some of your other choices.

That’s always the scary thing about recommendations. With everyone hearing about the benefits of cooking with coconut oil, pretty soon all of us Americans will be cooking everything in coconut oil (they way we moved from butter to olive oil) and we’ll end up with more heart disease because we slathered on too much! (Or we’ll decide donuts are healthy as long as they are fried in coconut oil.)

Know your oils. Know your health goals. Be smart.

If your goal is to avoid the number one killer for Americans – heart disease – then this is definitely information you want to take to heart.

Was this helpful? Or just more confusing? Leave a comment or question for us below.  

 

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Comments

  1. Amanda Sanford says

    Hi, I want to switch to coconut oil to use in the salad dressing I make at home. Will it work or should I just stick to the small amount of olive oil it requires? Also, is there a major taste difference between the two. Thanks in advance to anyone that can help!

    • Karen Smith says

      I would stick with the olive oil. Coconut oil is solid when it’s at room temperature – so it doesn’t work well for salad dressing. There is definitely a taste difference between the two. The amount of coconut oil you would use for most cooking purposes is so minimal that you won’t likely notice the taste. Definitely experiment with it. We tend to just use coconut oil when sautéing or for basic cooking and then olive oil for dressings.

  2. Chantel says

    The reason everyone thinks extra virgin Olive Oil has a low smoke point is because you are using a low quality oil. The store I work for started bringing in ultra premium olive oil, and I have proven myself that it does not smoke even with my pan on 7. The reason high quality olive oil is good at higher temps is because the Polyphenols are actually measured (these are the antioxidants in the oil & what give it a higher smoke point) if you search out a high quality extra virgin olive oil with the chemistry given to you (you have to be able to see the amount of polyphenols) (i reccomend veronica foods ultra premium extra virgin olive oils all are over 125 some even up to 550) You can fry & cook with them. The FDA doesnt even measure polyphenols in olive oil so youve been tricked into thinking your crappy grocery store/costco olive oil is the only way!! Plus coconut oil is proven to have bad cholesteral in it as well and is to be used VERY sparingly!

  3. Katie says

    Nice article…well stated, clear, concise, easy to understand. I think the key here is moderation. Oils are meant to be used sparingly and yet us Americans tend to have an all or nothing mentality and tend to take a good things too far.

  4. Ronaldo Subawon says

    Good day,
    There will all ways be pros and cons regarding the different oils. Me being from an asiatic decent knows about coconut oil. It have been used by us for thousands of years, so do the math. Any as we all say moderation is the word. Most time if I have to fry I use Canola Oil, it is a light oil. Cooking I use Coconut Oil, I use Olive Oil sparingly. People should notice if they fry with Olive Oil, and leave it in the Pan they will notice it will become sticky. This is just my observation, but as we say to each his/her own.

    • says

      Thanks Ronaldo – you are so right you can find arguments on both sides of the oil debate. It comes down to what is right for the individual (and their situation), because like you said we are all from different decent. I agree with you it is a great idea to use olive oil (and really ANY oil) sparingly!

    • Stacie says

      Olive oil has a low burn temp, which is why it gets sticky & coconut oil has a high burn temp. Otherwise, if you are concerned about nutrition, olive oil is actually better because it is a non saturated fat whereas coconut oil is a saturated fat. So you are actually better off using canola or peanut oil for higher temp cooking, and olive oil for low temp cooking or salads… Coconut oil should be used sparingly for flavor purposes… As a chef, I find that using coconut oil is nonessential since I can get the desired flavored in my dishes using coconut milk or water, which is much healthier that using straight coconut oil…

      • Jessica says

        What is a good oil to saute with? I have used olive oil for years and peanut oil to deep fry but have never considered coconut oil.

        • Karen Smith says

          Hi Jessica. For sauteing veggies (i.e. garlic/onions/peppers), you’d be surprised to find you don’t need oil at all. For years we used olive oil thinking we were adding something good to our diets…so we got a little crazy with it. That’s the problem with oils. It’s easy to over-do it. Today, we don’t use any oil at all for that kind of thing. It’s just not necessary – onions do the job…sometimes need to add a tiny bit of water. Truly that’s the healthiest – skip the oil or use very sparingly. If we do use any sort of oil, we use coconut for heat and olive for dressing (no heat).

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